12 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Oregon
Waterfalls, calderas, hot springs, and historic mansions — the trailheads in Oregon can really take you places. From the rugged coastline to glaciated peaks, the different hiking trails and places to visit in Oregon attract millions of tourists each year. Attractions like Eagle Creek and the McKenzie River are well reputed throughout the country, and much like the other best hiking trails in Oregon, each scenic location provides a range of activity, from family hikes to more challenging day-long or overnight adventures.
Hiking through history is possible on the traverse of the coastal Tillamook Head, and cultural attractions surround all thirty miles of the Wildwood Trail in Portland. Families will enjoy the Trail of Ten Falls just outside of Salem, and anyone looking for a longer adventure can find it on every mile of the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches throughout the state. Equipped with the proper gear and understanding of the environment, hikers will be astounded by the beauty of the state's trails. Learn more about them with our list of the best hiking trails in Oregon.
1. Trail of Ten Falls, Silver Falls State Park
A thirty-minute drive from the State Capitol building in Salem, Silver Falls is one of the most popular state parks in Oregon. As the largest state park and hosting one of the best campgrounds in Oregon, Silver Falls really stands out thanks to the National Scenic Trail within its boundaries. A roughly eight-mile loop with optional cut-off trails, the aptly named Trail of Ten Falls is a moving showcase of water and family attractions.
Most treks on the Trail of Ten Falls begin at the South Falls day use area, where the trail traverses behind the 177-foot South Falls. The trail is a moderate grade from here, with a few steep climbs aided by handrails. The entire loop passes by at least ten more waterfalls in total, many outshining the last, with five falls over 100 feet in length. The trail can be broken up to accommodate all members of a hiking party, and on any warm day throughout the year, expect to share the waterfall mist with other interested observers.
2. Tillamook Head Traverse, Seaside & Cannon Beach
Following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, the traverse across Tillamook Head takes hikers up and into a coastal forest environment. Members of the Corps of Discovery made this similar trek on the Oregon coast in search of whale blubber and winter supplies, and the trail today is part of Ecola State Park and much easier to follow. A one-way route, the hike begins either at Indian Beach adjacent to Cannon Beach, or by the recommended approach of taking a Seaside Streetcar to the North Tillamook Head trailhead. It's an uphill endeavor either way, but the manageable ascent is well worth the effort.
From the North Tillamook Head trailhead, it's a four-mile hike to the top and another 2.5 to reach Indian Beach. A free backpacker's campground with three Adirondack shelters and a large firepit awaits hikers who haul their gear to the top of the head. Day hikers have reasons to stop at the backpacker's camp, too, and a short spur trail from the shelters leads to an ocean overlook of the offshore Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, a particularly stunning sight come sunset. Hikers can either coordinate a shuttle to traverse the whole trail in a day or make it an out-and-back journey by turning around at the top.
3. Wildwood Trail, Portland
Connecting many of the best hiking trails in Portland, the Wildwood Trail stretches for over 30 miles, linking together cultural attractions and offering an easy escape from the city. Beginning near the Oregon Zoo and Hoyt Arboretum, the Wildwood Trail passes by other iconic destinations, including the International Rose Test Garden and Pittock Mansion within its first five miles. After passing these significant landmarks of Portland, the trail becomes less populated the farther you go, providing a true escape from the city nearby. Multiple access points and trail junctions enable easy section hiking of this designated National Scenic Trail.
4. Pacific Crest Trail Editor's Pick
The cross-country, 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) stretches from Mexico to Canada, navigating the elevated terrain that defines California, Oregon, and Washington. Hiking the entire route generally takes the snow-free season of April through October to complete, and thousands of hikers attempt a northbound journey each year. A "thru-hike" is far from the only way to enjoy this cross-country trail, however. Among the many great day hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail, certain Oregon sections of the trail deserve a much slower pace than what's required to make it to Canada before winter.
From south to north, one of the first major attractions on the Oregon PCT is Crater Lake, where an optional (and highly recommended) alternative route navigates the west rim of the ancient caldera, passing by Discovery Point. Other major attractions on the Oregon PCT come within the Willamette Valley up north, including dramatic lava fields, pristine wilderness settings, and active stratovolcanoes such as Three Sisters and Mount Hood. Exiting out of Oregon and into Washington, the PCT loses significant elevation as it connects with the Eagle Creek Trail and eventually hits the sea-level Columbia River.
5. Discovery Point, Crater Lake National Park
Over 175 miles of trails wind throughout Crater Lake National Park, and perhaps the most coveted can be found on the two-mile stretch leading to Discovery Point. Starting from the Rim Visitor Center and Crater Lake Lodge, the trail beelines for the crater's edge, revealing non-stop and stunning views of the ancient caldera, complete with sparkling blue water. Following a very easy grade and mainly dirt path, this route is a popular alternative to the Pacific Crest Trail, and by far one of the most popular out-and-back trails in the park. For further exploration, hikers can reach Cleetwood Cove via the Discovery Point trail, where a National Park Service ferry shuttles interested explorers to Wizard Island and the start of the 0.3-mile Wizard Island Summit Trail.
6. Eagle Creek Trail, Columbia River Gorge
Among the many awesome hikes in the Columbia River Gorge separating Oregon and Washington, Eagle Creek might be the best for a summer hike. From the trailhead and popular parking area, the trail climbs steadily for two miles before reaching the standout Punch Bowl Falls, one of the best waterfalls in Oregon. A great swimming hole and potential turnaround point, the trail continues past Punch Bowl Falls to explore farther along a steep canyon. Nearly six miles from the trailhead, hikers encounter and go behind Tunnel Falls, a stunning waterfall where the trail has been blasted through the canyon wall. For a continued adventure, the Eagle Creek Trail connects to the cross-country Pacific Crest Trail at just over 13 miles from the trailhead.
*Note: The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire significantly impacted areas in the Columbia River Gorge, including much of Eagle Creek. To check current conditions of Eagle Creek and the Columbia River Gorge, head on over to the official Forest Service website.
7. McKenzie River Trail, Willamette National Forest
A designated National Recreation Trail, the 26.4-mile McKenzie River Trail follows this iconic waterway to reveal a rich environment. Popular for overnight backpacking trips and sectional day hiking, the trail from north to south follows a primarily downhill grade punctuated by rough and rocky sections with plenty of views. A major trailside highlight includes both Koosah and Sahalie Falls, two waterfalls that rival each other in splash and scenic attraction. Another popular destination on the McKenzie River Trail, the Tamolich Blue Pool is a cold source of stunning turquoise beauty popular with hikers, cyclists, and photographers.
8. Timberline Trail
Circumnavigating the tallest mountain in Oregon, the Timberline Trail provides multiple perspectives of the stratovolcano known as Mount Hood. It's a 40-mile loop often accomplished over three to four days. The most popular spot to start and end this bucket-list hike is the historic Timberline Lodge, where a notable breakfast buffet can make for a nice reward after the hike. The Timberline Trail covers many landscapes that help define the lush surroundings of the Pacific Northwest, including alpine meadows, waterfalls, and the shadow of a stratovolcano. The most challenging aspect comes from the river crossings encountered along the way.
9. Oregon Coast Trail
Spanning the entirety of Oregon's open-to-the-public coastline, the Oregon Coast Trail navigates sandy beaches, forested headlands, and a wide variety of seascapes and sea stacks. While long-distance backpackers often head north to south on this 370-mile, cross-country route, the most popular way to access the Oregon Coast Trail is by day hiking sections at a time. Including the forested trek across Tillamook Head, another top day hike on the Oregon coast includes the trail leading up to the viewpoint at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. Other top attractions of the Oregon Coast and popular sections of the Oregon Coast Trail include Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, the Heceta Head Lighthouse, and the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.
10. Misery Ridge, Smith Rock State Park
Thirty minutes north of Bend, in the high desert of central Oregon, Smith Rock State Park stands proudly as one of the premier sport climbing destinations in America. Well over 1,000 bolted routes can be found on the volcanic welded tuff cliffs and basalt columns that define this inspiring landscape, often dotted by relatively small climbers making their way up the face. A popular weekend getaway from Portland, Smith Rock provides many other adventure and recreation opportunities alongside catering to a wide range of climbing abilities.
A great addition to a day of climbing, or a reason alone to visit, the Misery Ridge hike at Smith Rock takes in the entire landscape with the help of a few switchbacks. From the Crooked River Bridge, the trail ascends steeply for nearly three quarters of a mile before reaching the summit, exposing a great view of the elevated landscape and river valley immediately below. The trail continues along the ridge until reaching the iconic Monkey Face rock feature, a 350-foot spire and centerpiece of the state park. From Monkey Face, hikers can turn around and head back the way they came or descend the Mesa Verde Trail to connect with the River Trail for a flat finish on a 3.7-mile loop.
11. Bagby Hot Springs Trail
For a spot to soak your muscles at the end of a hike, the 1.5-mile trail leading to Bagby Hot Springs invites you to stay awhile. Following a tributary of the Clackamas River deep within the Mount Hood National Forest, the trail gently rolls through an old-growth forest as it makes its way to the hot springs. The dense surroundings add a nice appeal to the adventure, but the real reason to visit is the collection of soaking spots at the end of the trail. With community tubs available, the most sought-after hot water can be found within five private stalls complete with hand-hewn cedar log tubs. These are for day use only, and no nudity is allowed. As well as being one of the best hot springs in Oregon, Bagby is one of the most popular, too.
12. Angel's Rest Trail, Columbia River Gorge
Well reputed for waterfall landscapes, the steep terrain that defines the Columbia River Gorge also lends to some pretty good views. One of the best elevated landscapes can be found on the rocky outcropping high above the river known as Angel's Rest. It's accessed via a 2.5-mile trail with a moderately steep grade the entire way, and the relatively short distance is a great challenge for new and experienced hikers alike. The distant views of the Columbia River Gorge from Angel's Rest are well worth the effort, stretching for miles in either direction, and the rocky outcropping is a great place to rest before heading back down the same steep path to the trailhead.
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
Adventures in Oregon: Oregon is made for adventure. In addition to great hikes, Oregon also has incredible waterfalls and hot springs, many of which you can discover on weekend trips in Oregon. Campers will be pleasantly surprised with selection of campgrounds across Oregon.
Exploring Oregon's Cities: For a great combination of cultural attractions and scenic appeal, the city of Portland is the place to start. From the best hiking trails found within the city limits to nearby campgrounds and unbeatable weekend trips, excitement surrounds Portland in every direction. Other inland cities worth exploring in Oregon include Bend, Eugene, and the state capital of Salem.
Oregon Coast Adventures: The top attractions of the Oregon coast are ripe for adventure, including some the area's best beaches. For overnight exploration of the coast, plenty of great campgrounds and top-rated resorts can have you sleeping to the sound of the rolling surf. In between exploring the natural wonders of the Pacific Ocean, be sure to take the time to discover some of the best small towns on the Oregon coast.